Manchester United will strangely play on Monday, and they need a win at all costs if they want to keep their slim Premier League title chances alive.
The Red Devils will host Stoke City, a team that already gave the team some problems during the first round of action. Both sides settled for a 2-2 draw earlier this season, and one could say that draw was the beginning of United’s defensive struggles. This time, however, both teams are in need of a positive result so we could be in for an entertaning contest at Old Trafford. Kick-off is scheduled at 20:00 BST, and Anthony Taylor will be the referee.
Manchester United have been getting healthier over the past few weeks. And there could be a number of returns for the club ahead of this game.
Antonio Valencia is expected to return as the team’s captain has not played since mid-December due to a hamstring injury. Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling saw action in the FA Cup win over Derby the last time out, and both could feature as well. Michael Carrick has reportedly returned to training, and he is edging closer to a return following a heart problem.
That being said, there will be a few absentees as well. Eric Bailly remains out due to an ankle problem, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains out due to a knee injury. Jose Mourinho, however, revealed the Swedish star could return to training in late January or early February. And Ashley Young is out as well, as he will complete a three-match ban in this one.
Stoke will be a bit depleted defensively for this one. Bruno Martins Indi (groin) and former United Academy member Ryan Shawcross (calf) have been ruled out. Meanwhile, Jese (undisclosed) and Glen Johnson (knee) are both doubtful, but unlikely to play per reports.
Manchester United’s started 2018 with a solid run, registering wins over Everton and Derby County to kick off the campaign. The team sits second in the Premier League standings with 47 points and a game in hand over Chelsea, but they remain 15 points behind City, who continue to lead the standings comfortably. It must be said that United are on a decent run of results, however, as they are currently riding a W6 D3 L1 mark over their past 10 games. Furthermore, their W8 D2 L1 mark at home is the second best in the EPL this season.
Stoke are on a completely different place right now. They got kicked out of the FA Cup following a 2-1 defeat against League Two side Coventry City. That loss sealed the end of Mark Hughes’ tenure as The Potters’ manager. They have lost six of their last nine Premier League matches, with a W1 D2 L6 record over that span. That run of negative results dropped them to the red zone, and they need to start winning to avoid bigger problems in the short-term scenario. Stoke do not have a manager yet, though. As a result, first-team coach Eddie Niedzwiecki has been placed in temporary charge on a day-to-day basis.
United settled for a 2-2 draw against Stoke the last time out. Eric Choupo-Moting scored a brace for The Potters, while Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku were on target for United. That draw ended United’s perfect start to the 2017-18 season.
Manchester United have kicked off 2018 with two straight wins, and they are also getting healthier at the right time. Considering they have been playing better of late and Stoke’s problems both on and off the pitch, I think United shouldn’t have problems to secure the three points at home.
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